Kids Crafts at Fort Union Trading Post

During the summer, on Saturdays, we had Kids Crafts at Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site.  Every Saturday there was some kind of craft, related to the fort, that kids could do and take home.  Ranger Kristin Norgaard prepared and led the crafts, but Tom and I helped some.

The kids crafts were a variety of projects, offered from 11 until 2 every Saturday.  Usually there were about 15 kids who participated, but once there were 30.  They started in July and ran through the third Saturday in August.

The first project was adding fireworks to a drawing of Fort Union Trading Post on the 4th of July weekend.  Historically, Ft. Union Bourgeois, Kenneth McKenzie, brought vibrant and dazzling fireworks to Fort Union as a form of entertainment.  The kids used straws to created the fireworks in the sky.

On July 10, the kids made leather arrowheads.  They could emboss them with symbols that were important to them.  The arrowhead is an important symbol of the National Park Service.

Tom and Ranger Karl Koster talked about coopering at the kids crafts on July 17th.  Coopering, or barrel making, was one of many professions needed at Fort Union for its daily operations. A cooper can manufacture various containers, including casks, barrels, and buckets using wood and metals. Tom and Ranger Karl demonstrated coopering and then let the kids make small duck decoys out of cattails.  This was a Native American craft that gave children practice in duck hunting.  Kids of all ages enjoyed making a toy duck decoy and floating it in a bucket of water.  This was such a popular craft that they repeated it on August 7.

Block Printing Bandanas

On July 24, I led the kids crafts on block printing bandanas.  About 15 kids stamped patterns on a piece of unbleached cotton.  Some were very random but many of the kids took a great deal of time with their pattern.  We went through lots of ink.  Bandanas had a variety of uses, including scarves, neckerchiefs, and masks to keep out dust.


On July 31 Volunteer Paul and Ranger Kristin led a craft on blacksmithing.  The kids used modeling clay, wooden hammers, and blacksmith molds to make designs.  Tom hung out to talk about the things blacksmiths made.

Candlemaking and Flint and Steel

The last kids crafts day, Rangers Kristin and Leif Halvorson led flint and steel and candlemaking. The kids learned how flint and steel was used to start fires and could try making their own sparks.  Ranger Kristin melted beeswax and let the kids dip their own candles.  The candles turned out very well and the children were pleased with what they made.

I don’t know that the Kids Crafts days got more people to come to the park, but it was a bonus for the families who were already there.  I often heard people say what a nice surprise the kids crafts were.